From the ILWU Oral History Project, Volume IX, Part III
Introduction by Harvey Schwartz
This is the third article in a series featuring ILWU veterans of the “Old Left” who were once active in the American Communist Party (CP). While historians have argued for years about whether Harry Bridges was ever a Communist, not many writers have seriously explored the contributions of ILWU members who actually were in the CP. The present series addresses this oversight.
Don Watson, the focus of this month’s oral history, was a CP member between 1948 and 1956. One would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated adherent to the cause of labor. Watson retired from ship clerks Local 34 in 1993 after years of activist work for the ILWU and other unions, including the Marine Cooks and Stewards (MCS) in the early 1950s and the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the 1960s and 1970s. Today he is still helping the ILWU by assisting with the union’s lobbying program at the California state capitol.
Watson chaired the Local 34 executive board for 19 of the 24 years he served on that body. He told me he usually became chair or secretary of any labor committee he joined. Given his integrity and resolve, it is easy to understand why. In 1996 he helped set up the Copra Crane Labor Landmark Association (CCLLA) in San Francisco to preserve an outmoded waterfront device as a monument to the city’s work heritage. True to form, Watson has been the CCLLA secretary-treasurer ever since.
Don Watson has also long been an officer of the Southwest Labor Studies Association. Fittingly, this month he was given that organization’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Labor Movement for his outstanding record of combining union activism with the promotion of working class history.
I interviewed Watson in 1994 and 2004 for the Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC) at San Francisco State University. Thanks to LARC Director Susan Sherwood for releasing that oral history for use here.
Edited by Harvey Schwartz, Curator, ILWU Oral History Collection
My father, Morris Watson, was a newspaper man. In the 1920s he worked for the Omaha World Herald and the Denver Post. I was born in 1929 in Evanston, Illinois. My father had a newspaper job there with the Associated Press (AP). Soon after I was born the AP sent my father to New York, where I grew up. In New York my father was considered one of the AP’s best reporters. He covered major stories for the AP like the 1932 kidnapping of Charles A. Lindbergh’s son.
In 1933 my father read an article by the famous columnist Haywood Broun, who said he wanted to organize a newspaper reporters union. My father heeded Broun’s call and became one of the American Newspaper Guild (ANG) founders. He was also an ANG International vice-president.
During 1933 my father became the lead ANG organizer at the AP’s New York office. In retaliation the AP put him on the “lobster shift” in the middle of the night. They fired him in 1935. So the ANG filed an unfair labor practice charge under the new National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This became one of a group of cases that went to the Supreme Court and resulted in the NLRA being declared constitutional in 1937.
My father also became involved in the New Deal’s Federal Theater Project. He directed “The Living Newspaper,” a theater group that dramatized headlines as plays. This was quite an enterprise in the mid-1930s. Late in the decade my father became active in New York’s left-wing American Labor Party. Consequently I got interested in politics and it became part of my development.
In 1942 Harry Bridges visited New York. He persuaded my father to move out to San Francisco that fall to become the founding editor of the new ILWU newspaper, The Dispatcher. I was 13 years old and Bridges was fascinating. He had this supercharged, forceful personality, was very political and liked to talk about going to sea.
I went to sea myself in the summer of 1946, the year before I graduated from high school in San Francisco. World War II had just ended and the whole world was moving on ships. The first trip I made was on a troop transport, the Marine Jumper. I was a “utility man”—a pot washer and potato peeler. That first trip I sailed as a permit man. I joined the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (MCS), CIO in 1948. The AFL and the CIO were still separate rival organizations then.
I really got involved in political activity around ’48. I met people in the MCS who were Communists. I’d read the famous Communist William Z. Foster’s big book on labor, including the 1919 steel strike he’d been in. I thought Communists were good trade unionists and felt that I’d like to work along with them.
In 1948 Henry Wallace ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket. Wallace campaigned for peace with Russia and got enthusiastic support from the Left. I handed out Progressive Party leaflets, went to meetings, signed people up on petitions and did anything needed to help Wallace.
The MCS officially endorsed Wallace, but late in the campaign I noticed all these MCS members wearing Truman buttons. That didn’t seem good. On election day Harry Truman, the Democratic president, upset Thomas Dewey, the favored Republican. Unfortunately for the Left, Wallace did poorly.
I was also involved with the MCS Pre-Strike Committee in 1948. The MCS was allied with the ILWU and struck along with the longshoremen that year. President Truman slapped on an 80-day injunction to stop the strike under the new Taft-Hartley Act. I went to sea on the General Gordon during the injunction. When I got back, the strike was on. I sold the CP newspaper, The People’s World, at all the picket lines that dotted the San Francisco waterfront.
In 1950 I was at sea on the President Cleveland when the Korean War broke out. This right-wing guy named Randall called a special stewards meeting. He attacked the MCS leaders because they questioned the war, as did Bridges. I got up at the meeting and defended the MCS officers by saying they had done a lot for the people and we should listen to them.
I made two trips to the Pacific on the President Cleveland. The second time I was “screened” off the ship when the Cleveland returned to San Francisco. Screening was part of the government’s McCarthy era program of denying employment to leftist seamen and even politically moderate maritime union activists. The program was administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.
While I was disappointed, I knew that the Coast Guard had extended its screening to the Far East, but not to the area between San Francisco and Hawaii. So I got a job on the Lurline run to the Islands. After the third trip about 15 of us were screened at once. We came down the gangplank and had our pictures taken.
The Coast Guard held hearings on Sansome Street in San Francisco to review screenings. I gathered six to eight stewards to come to my hearing. Some of them vouched for me. But the Coast Guard hearing officer just went through the motions.
I got involved with the Committee Against Waterfront Screening. Even though I was young, about 21, I was elected secretary. The committee chair was Albert James, a Black longshore leader from ILWU Local 10. We held our meetings at the MCS hall in San Francisco. People from the ILWU and other maritime unions came.
I did the day-to-day work for the committee. I’ve found through the years that whenever I got on a committee I usually became chair or secretary very rapidly. Generally this happened because nobody else wanted to do the work with as much devotion as me.
The big activity we had was a daily picket line at the Coast Guard headquarters. Every day I supplied the leaflet. One I wrote in early 1951 says, “Screening since July 1950 has denied thousands of maritime workers on both coasts the right to work.” Sometimes I’d have a whole leaflet on some individual case. I also wrote about various ships cracking in two to show that the Coast Guard was spending more time screening seamen than working for safety.
We kept up our daily picketing for months. Some of the screened seamen got longshore work. The dispatchers at ILWU Local 10 would call the MCS hall when they had extra jobs. For a while we even got dispatched out of the ILWU Local 2 ship scalers hall.
In 1951 I was drafted into the Army. I was sent to Fort Ord, California, for basic training. They had these “Information and Education” sessions, really political talks. This one guy described what he called the Communist conspiracy. He had a chart of this Communist octopus that was going after our country and Harry Bridges was a major portion of his talk. And I’m just sitting there.
I didn’t discuss politics and I did all the marches and all the basic training. But that October I got a letter from the Department of Defense that contained what they called “derogatory information” about me and my parents. One charge said, “Your father is a Communist who has been active in Communist affairs since 1935.” They gave me 30 days to make a rebuttal in writing.
I went with my father to the attorneys for the ILWU and we did make a response. Part of it said, “If it is the policy of the U.S. Army to set sons against their parents, I do not intend to follow that policy.” Finally I was given a questionable “General Discharge under Honorable Conditions,” although I had done every assignment the Army gave me. Some years later, after a class-action suit, they sent me a revised “Honorable Discharge” and told me to destroy the other form.
After the Army I came back to the Bay Area and started doing the same things I was doing before I went in. Over the next two years I worked for the Independent Ironworks in Oakland, but as soon as the day was over I’d go down to the MCS hall to see what was happening. I still went to meetings and volunteered to help the seamen.
In 1950 the MCS had been expelled from the CIO for its left politics. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) called a bargaining election in 1954, but removed the MCS from the ballot because the top MCS officers didn’t comply with the non-Communist affidavits then called for under the Taft-Hartley Act. To support their officers the members voted “no union.”
A new NLRB election was called the next year and this time the ILWU stepped in to appear on the ballot. The stewards voted ILWU. However, the NLRB allowed other West Coast unlicensed seamen to vote in the same election, burying the ILWU vote. During the campaign Bob Robertson, the ILWU vice-president, asked me to help with a stewards’ edition of The Dispatcher. I put a lot of effort into it, but all was lost due to the politics of the time.
In 1955 I decided I would like to be an ILWU ship clerk. I didn’t have a strong upper body, so clerking seemed better than longshoring for me. Emmett Gilmartin, the clerks’ assistant dispatcher, gave me a permit card. This saved me because the dispatcher, Jim Roche, did not like screened seamen. But Roche was on vacation. When he returned Roche dispatched me anyway, although I was not his favorite.
There were many types of clerk jobs in the mid-1950s. Every ship had a different amount and kind of cargo. Today most of the work involves containers. But the time I’m talking about was even before the extensive use of palletized loads and lift trucks, which became the dominant features on the waterfront in the 1960s.
In unloading 1955-style the clerk told the longshoremen where to put the cargo. A ship’s crane would unload sling loads of cargo from the hatch to the dock where they would be placed on a series of four-wheel trucks. These four-wheelers were attached to a vehicle called a “bull.” The bull driver would haul the four-wheelers inside the dock where longshoremen would grab cases and put them where the clerk instructed.
At times there would be a cornucopia of goods for us to sort. We used to have piles of boxes all over Pier 29 of various sizes and types. The dock would end up looking like a Woolworth store. We had to build aisles or put small lots of cargo back-to-back or put large lots in piles. You had to figure out how much space was needed and where to put things. If you did it wrong, everybody would come down on you.
A major part of the job was receiving and delivery of cargo on and off trucks and rail cars. A clerk supervisor at the front of the dock would assign an arriving Teamster to drive to a section where he loaded or unloaded. When a clerk received cargo he counted it carefully. Then he would chalk mark the pile, including his count and the name of the loading ship.
In 1955 Jim Roche was the power in Local 34. He was the clerks’ dispatcher who did not like screened seamen. Roche didn’t like Black people either and wouldn’t dispatch them. He was a baseball fan. He was known for bringing in White ex-ballplayers and dispatching them to jobs.
An opposition faction arose around Jim Herman when Roche got sick about 1960. This was when Herman emerged into leadership. He was very articulate, lined up a following and got elected local vice-president and then president. He made some dramatic changes, like seeing that a good amount of Blacks came into the local. I was in a lunch group that supported Herman in the early 1960s.
About this time I got active politically in the California Democratic Council (CDC). I’d left the Communist Party in 1956 after Khrushchev’s famous speech criticizing Stalin was followed by the Russian invasion of Hungary. That told me the Party was not going to change. I felt relieved by my decision, which actually came when the CP wanted to advance me toward leadership. Instead I joined the Young Democrats and then the CDC. In both organizations we backed the election to public office of up and coming candidates like Phil and John Burton and Willie Brown.
Around ’62 the ILWU set up its own political group, the West Bay Legislative Committee. Bill Chester was the chair. I was elected vice-chair because they wanted a clerk in the post. In the late 1960s I ran for election to the Local 34 executive board. I made it on the second try and served for 24 years, including 19 as chair.
Jim Herman and I were both from the MCS and had fought the screening program. We also both actively supported the farm worker union movement in the 1960s and that became the basis of our relationship. In the mid-1960s Whitey Kelm and Herb Mills of Local 10 started a five-dollar-a-month club in support of the farm workers organizing drive. I’d met Dolores Huerta, the vice-president of the United Farm Workers (UFW), and had been impressed. I joined the club. It lapsed and I started it up again. Herman was very helpful and the local gave me sort of an official status.
Starting in 1967 or ’68 Local 34 had yearly Christmas collections for the UFW. As the head of this effort I’d go around to every pier on the waterfront and collect money from the clerks and longshoremen. The overwhelming majority gave. This continued into the mid-1970s. We also had a monthly labor caravan that brought food and money to the UFW headquarters in Delano, California.
I was so involved with the UFW that I became kind of an honorary farm worker. During the 1970 lettuce strike in Salinas I walked the UFW picket lines. In the early 1970s I started putting in only 800 hours a year on the waterfront. I spent most of my time helping the farm workers. I was very close to the UFW’s San Francisco boycott house and volunteered many hours there. Often I would care for Dolores Huerta’s children while she led UFW demonstrations or spoke publicly.
During the 1971 coast longshore strike Herman called for a Local 10/Local 34 Joint Longshore Strike Assistance Committee (JLSAC). He said, “I want Watson to be the secretary.” That was it. Everybody agreed and I became the secretary. While the strike was on I went to a UFW rally in Sacramento. I asked Marshall Ganz and Jim Drake, two farm worker leaders, if there was a little something they could do for our strikers. They said, “I think so.”
The next thing I knew they put together this huge caravan, which was really a payback. This long grape truck came to the San Francisco waterfront from the Central Valley. There were several trucks from Salinas. They had all this produce. Maybe 150 farm workers arrived too. They visited the Local 34 hall and then went down to Local 10. It became a giant event.
This more than anything else made my waterfront reputation. I was the secretary of the JLSAC, and all of a sudden this help came, and it was on such a vast scale. It took hours just to unload those trucks. While I got the credit within the ILWU, the farm workers really outdid themselves. I was amazed.
Around 1975 I started doing a lot of volunteer research for the UFW legal office in Salinas. This returned me to an interest in labor history. I did research papers on fruit tramp shed workers from the 1930s to 1970 and on lettuce mechanization. I interviewed farm workers, union activists and growers and made presentations to meetings of the Southwest Labor Studies Association.
My interest in farm worker history led me to co-found the Bay Area Labor History Workshop (BALHW) in 1980 with a scholar and UFW volunteer named Margo McBane. I had little academic training and was working in isolation without much feedback. If you don’t have that, you need some kind of a forum for discussion. If you want something and there’s no organization, you go ahead and organize it yourself. That’s what I did, and the BALHW is still going strong today.
In 1978 I became the Local 34 delegate to the ILWU’s regional political arm, the Northern California District Council (NCDC). Four years later NCDC President LeRoy King asked me to take on the job of NCDC secretary-treasurer and this broadened to include legislative lobbying at the state capitol in Sacramento. I remained with these duties until I retired in 1993.
Although I’m thankful that ILWU longshore members and retirees have good medical and pension plans, others are not so lucky. We are all facing ongoing privatization, deregulation and tax cuts, along with growing state and national deficits, all of which hurt working people. That’s why I’ve decided to continue to offer my lobbying skills to help the ILWU program in Sacramento.
By the London IWW
3 of us – hospitality workers employed on zero-hour contracts – have lost our jobs. This is at Friends House London, the head office of British Quakers where – despite the organisation’s reputation as a ‘good employer’ – senior managers responded to objections to the use of zero-hour contracts by getting rid of the three remaining workers employed on them!
Two of us were elected Unite the Union workplace representatives, and a third is a Quaker. One worker has been subject to intimidatory disciplinary processes; we all feel we’ve been targeted for being principled and outspoken at work; and our health has suffered. With the support of the London IWW union, we are calling for:
IWW Greece: International Call for Revolutionary Solidarity with the Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike
By IWW Greece
At the present moment, the imprisoned anarchists, members of DAK (Network of imprisoned social fighters), A. Stampoulos, A. Theofilou, G. Karagianidis, D. Politis, F. Charisis, A. Dalios, D. Mpourzoukos, G. Sarafoudis, G. Michailidis, the members of the “Revolutionary Struggle” N. Maziotis and K. Gournas, the member of “17th of November” D. Koufontinas, a number of Turkish political prisoners and the prisoners G. Sofianidis and M. S. Eltsibach, are on a hunger strike, fighting against the repressive legal state of exception which has been established by the Greek state since the beginning of 2000.
Starting on March 2nd, along with the comrades outside the prison walls, we commenced a struggle for the abolition of type C high security prisons, the abolition of “antiterrorist” law, the abolition of the “hoodlaw”, the radical change in the process of taking and identification of DNA samples, the release of the seriously sick member of 17N S. Ksiros.
Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Teamsters brass?
After a wave of anger at concessions the union forced onto unwilling members in its national contracts, some of President James Hoffa’s biggest opponents are teaming up to challenge him in the 2016 race.
Click here to read more at Labor Notes.
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with a woman who was faced with the choice to either work her labor-intensive job during pregnancy at the United Parcel Service or go on unpaid leave without benefits. In an opinion issued Wednesday morning, the justices ruled 6-3 that Young should at least be given a full opportunity to make her case in court that she was not given the same accommodation as other employees considered injured or disabled.
Young was tasked with lifting boxes as heavy as 70 pounds in her job as a UPS worker. When she got pregnant, her midwife recommended that she not lift more than 20 pounds, and wrote a note asking her employer to put her on light duty. Had Young been written a similar note because Young broke her arm carrying boxes, or suffered from a disability, UPS would have put her on what is known as “light duty.” But UPS wouldn’t do it for Young on account of her pregnancy. The alternative was to take unpaid leave without medical benefits.
Click here to read more at Think Progress.Issues: UPS
Hundreds of Alameda County recycling workers filled the Local 6 union hall on March 1 to celebrate two years of hard work that yielded dramatic improvements in wages, benefits and working conditions –and opened the door to helping new workers organize and join the ILWU.
Like the historic “Alameda County Recycling Workers Convention” held in the same location two years ago, the room was filled again with family members, community supporters and political allies who came to celebrate the string of remarkable organizing victories by workers at the largest recycling operators in Alameda County.
Recycling worker Alejandra León co-chaired the event with fellow recycling worker Pedro Sanchez. Both did an excellent job and conducted most of the event in Spanish – the language preferred by a majority of recycling workers – but simultaneous professional translation services were offered with headphones to everyone attending.
Monsignor Antonio Valdivia provided an inspirational blessing to begin the event. He started by recalling that his own father had been a longtime member of Local 6, and used to bring home copies of the ILWU’s Dispatcher newspaper, which little Antonio would read out loud for his father who was unable to read. Monsignor Valdivia concluded by speaking to all the children in the room, asking them to respect how hard their parents are working at difficult jobs in order to provide bread for their families.
Local 6 Secretary-Treasurer Fred Pecker added his welcome, thanking workers and special guests. He recounted the many accomplishments made during the past two years, explaining, “you’ve done so much good work to make life better for hundreds of workers employed in this industry – but many more recyclers are still suffering, and we’re now in a better position to help them.
A surprise visit was paid by the superhero, “Recycle Woman,” who appeared at the event in brightly-colored tights and a cape, played by Jessica Robinson. After greeting the audience, she led the children into a back room where she shared games that taught “zero waste” recycling skills for the children to use at home and school.
Solidarity from Brazil & Colombia
Environmental organizer Christie Keith of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) brought a message of solidarity and support from recycling workers in Colombia, Brazil and other members of the Latin America Recyclers Network. She noted that all recycling workers share a common bond for the important environmental work that they perform – and the struggle for justice required to gain recognition and respect. GAIA organizer Monica Wilson, who serves on the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling Steering Committee, also attended.
ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe and Secretary- Treasurer Willie Adams were both on hand to lend support and encouragement. Familathe, who oversees the union’s organizing efforts, said the
International union has supported the recycler organizing project for years because it has been a good way to help workers in a partnership with Local 6. He offered his continued support and encouraged workers to maintain their organizing efforts.
Alejandra León thanked Willie Adams for appearing two years ago at the first Recyclers Convention, where he predicted: “This campaign that we’re taking on, won’t be won by speeches – it will be won by working with allies, partners and a strong commitment.”
León thanked him for supporting the project and said his words two years ago had been “prophetic.” Adams spoke briefly, thanking workers for keeping faith in themselves and their union.
Key role by workers
The heart of the event was led by workers who shared short stories about the struggles they have endured during the past two years, fighting for better wages and benefits.
“Two years ago, we came here to make a plan for improving our recycling jobs. We set a goal for better pay that some people – including some officials from the Teamster and Machinists union – told us was ‘too much, too soon.’ But we didn’t back down, and today are celebrating the many victories that came from everyone’s hard work,” said León, as she and Pedro Sanchez began introducing workers who briefly shared their stories. Josefa Solano from BLT in Fremont explained how they became the first group of recycling workers to win raises and benefits that meet the new standard. Dinora Jordan from Waste Management told of a long, difficult but ultimately successful struggle by workers against one of the largest waste companies in the world.
Jose Gomez from ACI explained how workers overcame minimum wages, no benefits, no union and disrespect for immigrant workers to join Local 6. He reported that co-workers are now negotiating an ILWU contract that meets the “Alameda County Recycling Worker Standard” calling for “sorters” to earn $20.94 by 2019 along with affordable family health benefits.
“We couldn’t do all this by ourselves,” said Pedro Sanchez, who said the room was full of “compañeros” who supported the “causa” of improving conditions for recyclers. A group of special guests was then recognized and thanked – each receiving the gift of a commemorative framed poster signed by recycling workers.
Attorney Emily Maglio from the Leonard Carder law firm was recognized for helping ACI workers prevail in a class-action lawsuit that was recently settled for $1.1 million and will provide many workers with significant back-pay awards. Workers Ignacia Garcia, Maria Granados Flores and Griselda Mora were named on the lawsuit were recognized and thanked for their courage.
Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer was congratulated for hearing the concerns of recycling workers who have appeared before the City Council several times to provide updates and seek support for improvements at ACI, which provides recycling services for Alameda residents.
Recycler Ruben Ramos introduced Fremont City Councilmember Vinnie Bacon and thanked him for taking leadership to protect the environment and promote worker justice. Fremont was the first city in Alameda County to help workers reach the new pay and benefit standard. Oakland City Council member Dan Kalb was congratulated for supporting the fight to improve recycling services for Oakland residents and help workers win better working conditions.
Recycling and waste expert Ruth Abbe was honored for her service to the campaign, including her continuing role on the Steering Committee of the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling.Abbe also plays a leadership role in the Sierra Club’s Zero Waste Committee and has been providing workers with invaluable advice. Other environmental support for the campaign has been offered by the Center for Environmental Health.
Community organizer Brooke Anderson, affiliated with the Movement Generation network, ran to the podium to accept her award for supporting the recycling worker campaign. She has organized workshops to train workers about the economics of the recycling industry, and serves on the Steering Committee of the Campaign for Sustainable Recycling. Other community support has been provided by Oakland’s East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE). Recycler Mirella Jauragui congratulated staff from the University of California’s Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) for providing excellent health and safety training sessions to hundreds of recycling workers. LOHP staffers Suzanne Teran, Dinorah Barton-Antonio and Valeria Velasquez were recognized for their important work. Additional workplace safety advocacy and support has been provided by the Worksafe! organization.
The final honors were reserved for Pastor Pablo Morataya of the Primera Inglesia Prebisteriana Hispana in Oakland. A key ally in the campaign to help workers, Pastor Morataya hosted the campaign’s first major community outreach event in November, 2013, where political leaders from Oakland agreed to pledge their support for improving conditions for recycling workers. He has also been a strong advocate for immigrant workers at ACI who were threatened with discrimination and firings.
Other important support for ACI workers from the faith community has been provided by Rev. Deborah Lee of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Other faith community leadership for the recycler’s campaign has been provided by Rev. Kurt Kuhwald, Kristi Laughlin and Servant B.K. Woodson of the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME).
The afternoon event concluded with music – featuring the beautiful voices of Pedro Sanchez and Gustavo Nuñez, who also played keyboard. Family members of Rosa Delia Pérez provided the “DJ” service and more music. A buffet dinner was provided for all family members and guests.
ACI worker José Delgadillo probably summed up the feelings of many in the room, when he said: “All of us who work at ACI have seen how much Local 6 and the ILWU have done to help us. We can now see that a better life is possible – not just for us, but for other recyclers who can win if we help them.”
As the U.S. heads toward what some economists consider “full employment,” trucking companies tracked by the Labor Department hired an additional 2,600 workers in February, pushing the monthly JOC.com Trucking Employment Index reading up to 99.9.That means the more than 100,000 motor carriers surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for its monthly U.S. employment situation report are only one-tenth of a percentage point shy of their peak pre-recession employment level, last reached in May 2007. The prospect of near-full employment, a new employment peak in trucking and more good paying jobs in construction and other industries that vie with trucking for workers will keep upward pressure on driver wages and the truck rates shippers pay in 2015. The February Trucking Employment Index rose 0.1 percentage points from January, when the reading was 99.8, according to revised monthly data from the BLS. The index reading for February 2013 was 96.4. That indicates an annualized growth rate in trucking employment last month of 3.5 percent, the same as in January and the highest rate since late 2012. That year, the growth rate averaged 3.8 percent and was 4 percent or higher in four months. The for-hire trucking industry nearly doubled its hiring rate in 2014, expanding payroll by 46,000 jobs, compared with 24,900 in 2013, when the U.S. economy was stuck in a “soft patch.” The for-hire carriers tracked by the Labor Department agency shed 218,500 jobs from March 2007 through March 2010, and added 207,400 jobs from that date through 2014. The average monthly increase in trucking employment, calculated from the BLS data, rose from 2,075 workers in 2013 to 3,833 employees last year, an 85 percent increase that likely reflects strong recruiting efforts and higher pay. The carriers tracked by the BLS added more than 4,000 jobs in eight out of 12 months last year, compared with four months in 2013. At the same time, trucking companies say they are short by at least 30,000 drivers, while running at close to full utilization — more than 95 percent. That’s a sign demand for trucking capacity outstrips supply as the U.S. economy expands at an accelerated pace. Trucking’s latest employment gains came as the U.S. economy added 295,000 nonfarm jobs in February, driving the national unemployment rate down to 5.5 percent. That’s the lowest unemployment rate since the recession ended in 2009. The U.S. has added more than 200,000 jobs per month for 12 straight months now, the best hiring rate in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, according to BLS data. Transportation and warehousing businesses accounted for 18,500 new jobs in February, the seasonally adjusted payroll data show. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal believe the U.S. will hit “full employment” — the point where the economy is using all available labor — late this year, as the national unemployment rate drops toward 5.1 percent. The U.S. Federal Reserve considers an unemployment rate between 5.2 and 5.5 percent to be “normal,” The newspaper reported. At the same time, there were 5 million available jobs on Jan. 31, the highest level of job openings since 2001, according to BLS data. That includes 205,000 openings in transportation, warehousing and utilities, the federal agency said.
United Parcel Service Inc. on Tuesday said Chief Executive David P. Abney’s total compensation for 2014 more than doubled, including a base salary increase he received in September when he was promoted to the helm of the package-delivery giant.
Mr. Abney, who had been the company’s chief operating officer, succeeded Scott Davis, who retired as CEO but stayed on as chairman. The move signaled the U.S. shipping giant’s growing focus on its international operations.
Click here to read more at The Wall Street Journal.Issues: UPS
Former ILWU Local 34 President Frank Billeci died on February 1 at the age of 79. Frank was a member of Local 34 for 42 years and served his local in several positions starting in 1969 when he was elected to the Local 34 Investigating Committee.
In 1971 he was elected to the Local 34 Labor Relations Committee and in 1973 was a delegate to the Longshore Caucus and Convention. He also served on the International Executive Board and the ILWU Container Freight Station Committee. In1977, Frank was elected Vice President of Local 34 and after six months, he assumed the office of Local 34 President when Jimmy Herman was elected ILWU International President.
He served as Local 34 President until 1989 when he took a break from elected office to return to the docks and work on projects with the International. He was again elected Local 34 President in 1994 and served in that position until his retirement in 1999.
After retiring, Frank spent time with his wife and family. He enjoyed following his favorite teams, the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers, camping on the Sacramento River, fishing with his son and being a grandfather.
“Frank’s dedication to his work and the ILWU family was unsurpassed,” said Local 34 Secretary-Treasurer Allen Fung. “He never made himself the spotlight; instead he was always the one to give others the opportunity to shine. If there is one word that can be used to remember Frank, that word would be ‘integrity.’”
Frank is survived by Joan, his wife of 44 years, his daughter Tina, his son, Roger, his sister, Rose, and four grandchildren: Peter, Nathan, Lauren and Caroline.
. The building located at 110 The Embarcadero on the City’s waterfront will become the permanent headquarters of The Commonwealth Club of California. The 112-year old public affairs forum bought the building two-years ago but the project has been delayed by a neighborhood group that opposed the project.
The building was the headquarters for the longshoreman during the City’s historic 1934 waterfront strike and was the site of pitched battles between workers, police and private security forces. Two workers, Nicholas Bordois and Howard Sperry, were shot and killed by police on Bloody Thursday—July 5th, 1934. Their bodies laid in the longshoremen’s hall until their funeral. The deaths of Bordois and Sperry rallied public support for the strikers and eventually sparked a four-day general strike in San Francisco.
The building has been vacant for years. A previous development project, which was ultimately rejected by the Board Supervisors, proposed tearing down the building entirely and replacing it with a high-rise condominium project. The ILWU passed a resolution at its convention in 2009 opposing that project.
The Commonwealth Club reached out to the ILWU from the outset of the new project and wanted to ensure that the building’s history would be appropriately honored. The façade on Steuart Street, where the longshoreman occupied the building, will be restored to its original 1934 appearance.
The building’s history will also be commemorated with a plaque on the outside and a historical exhibit inside. The side of the building facing the Embarcadero, which no longer bears and resemblance to its 1930s character, will be replaced with a modern curtain-wall façade.
Local 10 member Felipe Riley, Bay Area pensioner John Fisher and ILWU historian Harvey Schwartz spoke in favor of the project because of the Commonwealth Club’s commitment to honoring the history of the ILWU and the important role the 1934 waterfront strike played in the City’s history.
The Commonwealth Club will be working with the ILWU to design the marker and exhibit detailing the building’s history that will be seen by thousands of people attending the Club’s events every year.
The Tamarkin union members overwhelmingly voted in favor of Giant Eagle’s severance package Wednesday.
The vote was 129 to 4. Teamsters Local 377, which represents the workers, has been told by the company with passage of the package the plant employees will be able to stay through June.
Click here to read more at The Vindicator.
March 24, 2015: Over 200 active and retired Teamsters packed the Cincinnati Local 100 hall for the monthly Retirees Club meeting to hear speakers address the pending cuts to Central States pensions. Mike Walden, chair of the Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions, told a standing room only audience that it was time to organize to push back the attacks on retirement security.
That same day, 150 Teamster retirees met at the Columbus union hall and heard Greg Smith, an Akron Local 24 retiree, speak on the pension issue. Representatives from U.S. Senators Brown and Portman’s staffs were also present to hear retirees speak out on the importance of maintaining the pensions they rely on for their retirement. See the article covering the meeting in the Columbus Post Dispatch.
Tom Kreckler, a retired Local 114 Teamster and Secretary-Treasurer of the retirees club, said, “Out of this meeting, we’re organizing a pension committee. We need to get the word out to hundreds of members who know nothing about what’s coming. We got a number of volunteers to sign up to help out. Spouses are getting involved too. We need to let Central States know that we won’t accept cuts without a fight.”
A committee was also formed in Columbus to carry forward the struggle to protect pensions. On March 21, a conference call of 100 pension committee and activists, convened by TDU, got reports from some committees and from the staff of the Pension Rights Center in Washington DC, on where the grassroots campaign is headed.
The campaign is spreading throughout the Central and Southern regions, and beyond.Pension and Benefits
March 24, 2015: The Central States Pension Fund trustees have set up a briefing for local union officers on April 8. Will this be the big announcement regarding their proposed pension cuts – or a background briefing?
The announcement states only that they will “provide Local Union officers with background information on the MPRA [pension cut legislation], review the process and timetable…and outline a communication plan for our participants.” It goes on to state that the Board of Trustees [four Teamster officials and four management reps] are “currently reviewing options.”
We believe that review needs to be expanded.
The Fund has stepped up security at their building in Rosemont Illinois, and this announcement states that only pre-registered union officers will be allowed in the meeting, with “no walk-ins.”
We will provide more information as soon as it is available.
Teamster retirees and members are fighting back against cuts, and for better and more equitable solutions. If you think there should be an independent audit before any cuts are proposed, and that the process should be more equitable, then find out how you can be part of making it happen.Pension and Benefits
Starting next month, Target will raise its minimum wage to $9 an hour. Sound familiar? That's because Target’s decision comes just one month after its competitor Walmart said it would raise its starting wage to $9 and eventually $10 per hour. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have also announced a new $9 an hour base. These minimum wage increases reflect an improving economy and the impact of widespread protest through campaigns like the fast food strikes and OUR Walmart.
The business press, unsurprisingly, chalks up the hikes to an improving economy. The Wall Street Journal writes, "Target’s move is the latest example of a tightening labor market and rising competition for lower paid workers amid declining joblessness and signs that consumer confidence is returning." At 5.5%, the country's unemployment rate is at its lowest in six years. Earlier this year, a review of several studies found that higher wages led to more productivity and lower turnover rates, which can then lead to higher profits for companies.
Click here to read more at In These Times.Issues: Labor Movement
Since Whitley Wyatt retired in 2000 after 33 years as a trucker, he’s collected a pension of $3,300 a month.
Now, the 71-year-old says as much as $2,000 of his monthly check is at risk because of legislation passed by Congress last year that is meant to help underfunded multiemployer pension plans bolster their finances by giving them a way to cut benefits for some retirees.
Click here to read more at The Columbus Dispatch.Issues: Pension and Benefits
YRC Worldwide Inc.'s top executives received large increases in total compensation in 2014, according to the company's annual proxy statement.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Overland Park-based less-than-truckload carrier (Nasdaq: YRCW) filed its annual proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing disclosed the amount paid to YRC's top executives and directors in 2014.
Click here to read more.Issues: Freight